John Moverley, Goodwick Post Office, Pembrokeshire, presented a very tricky balancing act in his email. He wrote: “We have had PayPoint in our Post Office for nearly eight years. It’s on the shop counter. Two years ago we converted to a Post Office Local and the post office sits next to the shop counter. We do not run our business any differently, most top-ups are processed at the shop counter, and we also do Simple Payments. We started taking debit and credit cards in the shop when we converted, which also goes through PayPoint.
“All of a sudden PayPoint are telling us that to renew our agreement we must sign a counter exclusivity contract whereby we would arrange to remove Post Office facilities which would enable us to perform top-ups, such as Paystation. Obviously we cannot agree to this! They first raised this about 18 months ago and we discussed it with a rep who said not to worry and so we didn’t! Now we have a problem if we don’t sign by Friday!
“We can’t be the only post office suffering this problem. Just wondered if you had come across this elsewhere.”
In further emails I saw a list of PP’s front counter exclusivity services, and while John does use the PO system to process some of PP’s ‘key sector schemes’, he overwhelmingly uses PayPoint to process almost everything.
He says: “We want to stay with PP, but there is no compromise. If a customer comes to the PO counter and asks for a phone top-up we won’t send them to the shop. This usually only happens where a pensioner withdraws their pension and wants to use some of the money to pay for a top-up.”
I got a polite comment from PP, but as John pointed out it was still sticking to its guns. I put it to PP that this is a direct clash of contracts and got a very direct reply from spokesman Steve O’Neill.
“Quite! We recognise that the PO does transactions that we don’t - we’re certainly not in the fishing rod licence game! For those, of course, he’s more than welcome to process those non-competing schemes.
“If he wants to commit to the PO rather than PP, that’s his choice, but I’m afraid we can’t stand idly by while revenue pours into a box that has been placed just next to ours.”
John has labelled this decision as idiotic and describes PP as “the company that bullies their agents while paying them peanuts”. He adds: “Leopards and spots spring to mind! We want to leave things as they have been for eight years with PP’s full knowledge, but their greed, arrogance and disinterest in understanding our situation will force us to lose them, and they won’t care. We will be paid more by PO, but may need to change some of our internal procedures and not be able to give TV licence top-ups or make Simple Payments (their loss as nobody else wants to do it). We can easily find another card payment provider, but the whole thing is absurd because we want to leave things as they are and nothing has changed!”
In the course of all this I also asked the PO to comment, but a spokeswoman said: “We won’t be responding as Post Office can’t comment on communications between other parties.”